Sunday, June 17, 2012

Grief: Father's Day Isn't Always Easy

I wrote a post talking about how difficult Mother's Day is for some people.  Now I have to do the same for Father's Day.  I'm bad at acceptance.  I'm sad that today people are sad and lonely because of the death or absence of their fathers, and children.  I'm angry too.  I can't help it.  The hurt in the world affects me.  I don't mind going through that.  It helps me have compassion and understanding.  It's the same as Mother's Day.  Too many people running around expecting that everyone else is celebrating.  Too many Happy Happys taken for granted.

I'm not saying you can't get there.  You can honor a father who has died, a child that has died by having a day full of the life and love they gave you - or if they gave you none - then full of forgiveness.  There is a technique I have described before. It is rolling your memories backwards.  I was taught to do it with circus music - but I like jazz.  It is used with soldiers who have PTSD.  When Artie first died whenever I thought of him I thought of dead Artie and I was sad and lonely.  Now I often try to think of him alive with his dazzling smile (I called him Dazzle) and make my remembering him live memories.  If I am fully in the memory of him before death I am laughing or comforted.  I still know he is dead - but for that moment the memory is pure and it radiates all the good feelings it radiated at the time.  I can't live there.  I have a life in the present.  I can visit, though.  A very simple example is that when boxing is on I used to feel sad that Artie wasn't here to watch it.  It was his favorite sport.  Now when I see that boxing is on I remember him being excited and hearing him shout at the TV screen.  I've practiced so it is automatic.  There are lots of other examples - but that is an easy one of changing the thought about a memory that is triggered to make it happy instead of sad.  There is much more than thoughts of dead Artie - there are lots of wonderful ones of live Artie. 

All the techniques there are - some people interpret that as being told you should push your feelings away.  Not in my opinion.  That's why I call this blog, "Stop Thief, Don't Steal My Grief."  My personal goal is not to stop grieving, even to heal.  For me genuine healing  is to feel my all my emotions, but not to be ruled by any one emotion.  Those questions I mention often, "What else am I feeling?  Who else am I?"  I also make myself show up where life is happening.  Yesterday I was feeling incredibly bad about someone dying but I forced myself out of bed to be with my daughter and granddaughter.  Sitting with my granddaughter in the park - creating new memories - teaching her about grass and trees - watching her eat mashed potatoes for the first time.  Simple things that didn't take away my sadness - but added a lot to my what else? who else?  Happy moments in a sad situation.  Happy moments that I made happen by being present for them.

Today, my daughter's best friend is still on life support in ICU.  He will probably die tomorrow.  The cancer has filled his lungs and his stomach and his family who wanted to keep hoping is going to have to make a tough decision tomorrow morning.  His father sits, today, in the ICU waiting room.  His father has to visit him wearing gloves and a gown because his son has a bacterial skin infection on top of everthing else.  The dying man's brother, a war hero, is also there.  He has, he said, seen a lot of death, but not like this.  He can't be with his own son today because he is waiting for for his brother to die. 

A good friend of mine had a young friend die from cancer on Wednesday.  He has a wife and two small children.  The thing is, the true thing, is that these are people I know but this story is repeated throughout the world, throughout history, throughout time. 

My daughter has bought her friend's father a cigar case for Father's Day.  She didn't get a card because what card says something about your son dying?  She didn't know what to say.  I suggested, "I wanted to acknowledge what a wonderful father you are."  I said she could say it was from his son - through her - but he might cry.  That wouldn't be a bad thing - but there are people that don't appreciate it when you say something that cuts through to their real feelings instead of the one's they are pretending to have.

What I ask for is a little sensitivity.  In schools, in marketing, in all situations.  We assume that Father's Day is full of joy for everyone.  I'm not even going to go into the grief of having your father abandon you or your child refuse to have anything to do with you.  That is just as important and just as painful.  For those of us who have not suffered this particular loss, let us be kind today to those who have.  I have a friend whose son died and I always ask if they mind my talking about my daughter and granddaughter. 

If you are the person whose beloved father is dead - or the father whose beloved child or children is dead this will always be an uneasy day for you.  That's normal.  It doesn't mean that the feeling of loss can't be lightened with the gratitude you feel if you have been lucky enough to have loving moments with another person.  You can have a day that is filled with mourning and celebration - if you are ready.  You can have a day that is just mourning.  Mourning spelled differently is morning.  Morning is the beginning of a new day with new possibilities.  What I strive for always while on my own rollercoaster - how to make my life a celebration of the lives of my beloved dead.  How to bask in the love and memories and gratitude for the time I had to spend with them.  How not to lose my way in the dark of loneliness.  How to believe - as I have come to - that they are with me in spirit and someday my own little earthbound self will know the secret too and Artie will laugh at me when I find out. 

Don't use words like never and always.  I had someone say their son never had a happy moment until he died.  He must have had one - one is a beginning.  People - even me - say I always or I never - it's not true.  We have to be searchers for the happy moments - we have to train ourselves to have them and then to notice and remember them.

There is definitely life after death - if you don't believe in it for those who have died - than please, doubly make sure you find ways to create it for yourself.  Wishing you strength and courage and moments of something called joy.  xo

1 comment:

  1. by the time my grandmother died, she had outlived all her friends. I'm now 40 years younger than she was when she passed, but I've predeceased all my now former friends and I need new friends but I reek of death.